“I’ve learned that it’s okay to be myself and embrace that and own it,” Demi Burnett tells PEOPLE

By Aili Nahas
September 18, 2019 07:00 AM

Demi Burnett may not have found love on Bachelor in Paradise, but she did leave with a fiancée!

The 23-year-old got engaged to girlfriend Kristian Haggerty on the season finale, cementing a relationship — and teaching Burnett what finding true love is all about.

“I’ve learned that it’s okay to be myself and embrace that and own it,” Burnett tells PEOPLE. “I want to be honest and open. Love is love!”

The former Bachelor contestant had an initial spark with fellow Paradise castmate Derek Peth, before opening up about her lingering feelings for Haggerty, whom she met through mutual friend (and Bachelor alum) Catherine Agro.

RELATED: Bachelor in Paradise’s Demi Burnett Reveals She Met Her Girlfriend Through a Fellow Contestant

“We hung out before and we were just friends,” says Burnett of her initial relationship with Haggerty. “Then one night we were hanging and everyone else had gone to sleep and we got in the hot tub and explored that!”

Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty
Demi Burnett/Instagram

When it came time for Burnett to leave for Paradise, “I didn’t take any time to think about what I was going to be leaving behind,” she says. “I was focused on Paradise and what I was going to explore there.”

Adds Haggerty: “She was open from the beginning about going to Paradise, so I was always supportive. I don’t think I touched base with my feelings until she had left and that’s when I realized how much I cared about her.”

RELATED: BIP‘s Demi Burnett Says Being ‘Criticized’ for Her Sexuality ‘Hurts’: ‘There’s Nothing I Can Do’

Now, an engagement feels “surreal,” says Burnett, though the couple isn’t rushing the next steps. “I don’t think we should jump into moving in together,” she says. “We already got engaged in such a short amount of time. We need to have time to date and have a steady-paced relationship.”

But a future move is on the horizon. Burnett is moving to Los Angeles from her native Texas — and yes, thoughts of the big day have come up.

“We just got engaged and we need to breathe for a minute,” says Burnett. “But I am super excited to plan a wedding!”

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